HC Deb 17 May 1944 vol 400 cc162-3
15. Mr. Driberg

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he can make any statement on the amnesties granted to the Polish-Jewish soldiers who were recently court-martialled; if the amnesties amount to complete annulment of the sentences or only to a stay of execution; if they apply also to the three sailors who were arrested simultaneously with the soldiers and to one or two isolated absentees who have been arrested since; and if he has any information showing to what units the men concerned are to be sent for duty.

Mr. Eden

Yes, Sir. On 12th May the President of the Polish Republic signed an amnesty decree relating to a number of military offences, including desertions, committed by members of the Polish Armed Forces prior to May 3rd. I am informed by the Polish Government that the amnesty, in its application to Polish Jewish and other deserters, involves complete annulment of the sentences inflicted on them by court-martial. As regards the third part of the question, the amnesty applies in respect of all offences committed before 3rd May whether or not sentences had been inflicted prior to that date. As regards the last part of the question, I understand that the men have been sent to the central Polish depot and will be posted to units according to their qualifications and to military requirements.

I would like to take this opportunity to say that His Majesty's Government warmly welcome the action of the Polish Government in granting this amnesty. I strongly hope that this will mark the close of this unfortunate episode, and that the men affected will now go forward to play their part in the great operations which are impending. I am satisfied that the Polish authorities, for their part, have done and are doing all in their power to stamp out any trace of racial or religious discrimination in the Polish Forces.

Mr. Driberg

While warmly welcoming also this act of just clemency by the Polish authorities, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it would not be rather unfortunate if these men were to be sent back to the same units in which this unhappy situation arose; and, if the Polish authorities, of their own volition, agreed to transfers by individual application to the British Forces, would the British authorities put any obstacle in the way?

Mr. Eden

I have made it quite clear that, in all the circumstances, we are not prepared to accept these men in the British Army.